Question #2

May one continue living in adultery after coming to Christ?

"What is the responsibility of the church in teaching the gospel to people who are divorced and remarried? Scriptural or unscripturally. Also what must a person do who is taught to be able to live in a saved condition after they have been taught? If a person who has divorced and remarried lives in a continuous adulterous condition then it seems that person has no hope and has no life in Christ?"

The Answer:

The responsibility of the church in teaching the gospel to any person is the same – proclaim the teaching of scripture without fear or favor. Thus, the question really inquires concerning 1) the teaching of scripture on divorce, 2) the teaching of scripture on conversion, and 3) whether there is some different standard for the person who is unscripturally divorced.

Subpart One: The New Testament’s teaching on divorce is found in such passages as Matthew 5:21-32; Matthew 19:2-9; Mark 6:17-18; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-15; and Hebrews 13:4. From these verses it is clear that there is only one basis for divorce in the sight of God – fornication. Absent fornication, remarriage by a divorced person constitutes adultery. The Scripture also clearly teaches that adultery and fornication are sins that bring upon one the judgment of God. In addition to the scriptures above, see Romans 1:28-32; 1 Corinthians 5:9-10; 6:9-11, 15-18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Timothy 1:9-10; 1 Peter 4:3-4; 2 Peter 2:9-14; Jude 7; Rev. 2:20-22; Rev. 9:1.

Subparts Two and Three: This subject is addressed in other portions of (for example, What Must I Do To Be Saved? on the home page). The real thrust of the question, however, addresses the nature of repentance required on the part of the divorced person. Stated differently, can an unscripturally divorced and remarried person who is, according to scripture, living in adultery, become a Christian and remain in the adulterous relationship? To address these parts of the inquiry, we must study the nature and requirements of repentance. The Bible clearly teaches that a person may so violate God’s teaching concerning marriage that his or her own life will be so entangled maritally that the relationship in which one is involved cannot be maintained if God’s forgiveness is to be received. Is it possible for past unscriptural marital entanglements to be forgiven? Absolutely. But that is a different question than whether those past unscriptural marital entanglements may be maintained. Bible teaching makes clear that people can so sin in the marital relationship that no choice exists but to live single and celibate. That is neither a reflection on the mercy of God nor a reflection on God’s forgiveness. It is an indication of the nature of sin – its devastating, destructive effects. Even more, it is a reflection of man’s own stubborn disobedience and rejection of what God designed for our good. Is there any other unscriptural relationship where people argue that it can continue after conversion? What about the homosexual relationship or an incestuous relationship? What did repentance and baptism mean to the Corinthians who had been practicing adultery, homosexuality, male prostitution, thievery, or swindling (1 Cor. 6:9-10)? Was the adulterer permitted to continue in an adulterous union while the homosexual had to leave his or hers? To ask the question is to answer it for reasonable people. But, some argue, adultery is like murder. A murderer may repent but it is impossible for him to bring the dead back to life. So with adultery it is suggested, an adulterer may repent but it is impossible for the prior marriage to be “raised.” This is a false analogy. First, severing an illicit relationship is not an attempt to rectify past divorces or restore past marriages. Rather, it is what is demanded by repentance and God’s laws of marriage. Second, the basic principle that does apply to both murder and adultery is that repentance demands that the individual cease committing murder and cease living in adultery (See Col. 3:7; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t change an illicit state or relationship into a righteous one so that it may be continued. Nowhere has God ever dealt with sin in such a manner. God has always demanded the cessation of the sinful practice or relationship before He abundantly pardons. (See Ezra 10, esp. vv. 3, 12, and 44.)

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)